Wednesday, 27 September 2017


Figure this one out. Missing Lllangollen Canal

DolcieBlue has travelled a few miles since I wrote, earlier in the month when we had arrived in Rugby. Autumn is starting to show its colours along the Cut but it feels like Autumn has been around most of the summer. We hadn’t planned to stay in Rugby for days but we did because we could. During that time Cptn brought our ‘red car’ out of hibernation and we traded it in as part payment on a Skoda Yeti.

There is nothing bad or unpleasant, stay positive, about this vehicle and it is exciting to have a change of wheels. So we bought the Yeti and left it in Rugby until it was convenient for us to have it closer to boat-land!

While we were moored in Rugby one of my Bro’s said he would be in London, briefly, and suggested meeting for the day! I booked a return ticket to Rugby and we met at Tate Modern. I said we’ll meet at the Main Entrance at 11ish. I arrived just after 11am at what I assumed was the ‘Main Entrance’. 10 minutes later, I asked the security bag checker “Is this the Main Entrance?” He said it was but there were another 2 main entrances upstairs, one being river-side. I put 1+2 together and thought it must be the Southbank entrance! I walked upstairs and outdoors towards the River and there was my younger Bro walking towards me.
View downriver from the Millennium Bridge

A cool moment of connection in London, the ‘city’ of millions. I even felt a familiar warmth being in London, although it was long ago when I lived in Tower Hamlets and worked in Westminster.

This would be opportune to put together.

We did the Tate Modern,

Strolling across the Millennium Bridge

walked across the Millennium Bridge (remember Millennium has 2x l’s and 2x n’s) and had another bag search to go into St Pauls Cathedral. It costs an arm and a leg to go into St Pauls so the understanding money- taker said we could go in and light a candle and take in the feel of the impressive building but don’t stay long. 

Then we were off to the Underground to get the District line tube to Kew Gardens. The Tube looked wide compared to the width of DB. DB is 7’ and the Tube is 9’7”. I wonder if anyone else compares their living space to the width of the Tube!?

It's all what the eye takes in

The closest I have been to Kew Gardens, recently, is when we have cruised by on the River Thames. I did visit the Gardens in the mid 80’s when I lived in London and I was pleased to revisit this amazing Botanic Garden with Mick. We walked and talked and walked visiting the attractions of Kew.

The Hive

Tree walk. We took the lift down!

I ‘Tubed’ it back to Euston, which took about an hour, and then got on the train to Rugby, that took less than an hour! It had been a very happy day being tourist in London and all said and done I was happy to be back on DB.
The Oxford Canal (North)

We cruised away from Rugby the following day and I helmed, as that is my current position on DB. From Rugby to the Coventry Canal there is one tunnel on the outskirts of Rugby and one stop- lock at the end of the ‘Oxford’ at Hawkesbury Junction.

There is a messy bit of Canal at Stretton-under-Fosse, possibly because there is a lot of boat activity at the Boatyard, double berthed boats with oncoming traffic as you exit under a Bridge followed by a swing bridge and a nearby water point. I had to move total Right and brace DB into a tree trunk while I waited for oncoming traffic. Does that swing bridge need to be closed, I thought, but I just kept on going. Some land-lubber can do that! One of those happenings that occurs, infrequently I report. And no steel kisses at that point.
Hawkesbury Junction, Photo from Nicholson's Waterway's Guide 3

Soon, the north branch of the Oxford Canal came to the end, for us, at Hawkesbury Junction. 12 miles of leisurely travel from Rugby and we were close to the ‘burbs of Coventry. Hawkesbury Junction has a stop-lock to negotiate and we waited for a boat to move out of the lock before it was our turn. Then DB went in, and I was puzzled why it was moored on the Lock mooring. Apparently, it had plans to reverse into the Lock after we’d left it, as its Cptn wanted to make adjustments to the stern fender. All well and good but I had a sharp turn to make onto the Coventry Canal and there was not enough space for 68’ of boat to avoid a gentle steel kiss with the boat in question. No harm was done and DB performed well in front of an audience of Gongoozlers with a one point turn assisted with the trusty Bow-thruster. The gongoozlers applauded my helming.

It was on to the Coventry Canal and I knew Nb What-a-Lark, coming from Tamworth was likely to arrive at Hawkesbury Junction that afternoon. We had just tied DB’s ropes and Nb W-a-L came into view. So nice to see Lisa and David, gin o’clock was approaching and so was a quick catch-up. Next morning we had a coffee finale and both Nb’s headed in opposite directions.
Narrow messy bit of canal filled with crap (Coventry Canal)

I think the Coventry Canal is worth revisiting, pretty and lock-free until Atherstone.  We stopped while it was still rural and I went on a mission to get blackberries, to make more compôte. I noticed fallen damsons but the tree was too tall for me to reach so I selected some intact damsons from the ground. Damson and blackberry compôte, yum yum. The stones were easy to remove as soon as cooking finished. I got creative making scones patting the mix out on cling film spreading a layer of compôte and sprinkling a little Demerara sugar before rolling, sort of, and cutting to bake as pinwheel scones.

I made a small batch of scones, there are only 2 of us, and scones are best eaten on the day!
Atherstone Locks takes time, there are 11 of them. There were volunteers at the Top Lock but slow moving traffic. I think the locks could be called gentle ones and we were going down, the delay in the movement was refilling the empty Lock left by the boat in front or waiting for a boat heading up. Never mind. I think Cptn is enjoying working the Locks and it is more social than helming. At one Lock, he was walking to wind the paddle up and a chap came out of a ‘Lock’ cottage and said

“I see lots of boats at the Lock and I don’t usually pass comment on them but I had to come out and tell you that your boat looks fantastic.”

It is a thrill to hear people say how much they like the vinyl patterning and colours of DolcieBlue. We are happy to tell people how we did it. It is low cost and it takes time. We had no idea how it would turn out and it doesn’t matter, we are very happy with her and it feels like we have taken her into the 21st Century.
Moored at Hopwas (Birmingham & Fazeley Canal)

We had 2 more nights mooring on the Coventry Canal. The 2x Locks at Tamworth should have been a breeze but the queue was at least 6 boats with one boat, with no sign of life, moored on the Lock mooring, which was inconvenient. When we were moved in front of it, Cptn noticed a couple of windlasses on the roof and thought they should be moved out of sight. I decided to knock on the window, in case someone was on the boat. The Bow door opened and a sleepy woman appeared. I told her that the windlasses might get nicked and that she should move her boat as it was in the way! She got moving straight away.

As I said before, I like the Coventry Canal and it joins the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal that takes us to Fradley Junction and the Trent & Mersey Canal. There we were back on the move to Rugeley and 
along to Great Haywood where we joined the Staffs & Worcs Canal.

Cpt chopping firewood with Shugborough Hall in the distance. (Trent & Mersey Canal)

Wolverhampton indicates the Staffs & Worcs Canal

The cruising year is getting to its last month of 2017 cruising for us and we are ready to move off to Spain.
Morning mist on the Broadwater. (Staffs & Worcs Canal)

I’ve enjoyed Helming and I’m happy to take the wheel on DB.

I didn’t enjoy the near miss I had with an oncoming boat, a couple of days ago. I wasn’t going fast, I was entering a bridge and there was a Nb coming the other way. Reverse thrust, instant reaction and horn from me. There was no steel kissing but other boat Cptn had to pass comment

“You could slow down” said helpful Mr Grumpy. I should have switched to selective hearing mode.

“What?” I replied. ‘You could have tooted your horn’ I thought.

I think he could have blasted the horn to warn his boat's presence as the bridge was clearly just as awkward for both of us, and I couldn’t go fast, anyway, under a bridge where I couldn’t see round the bend! Why did you have to be thinking you were going under a bridge when I was already under it!! And to your mate in the boat behind......
Tixall Lock (Staffs & Worcs Canal)

Deptmore Lock (Staffs & Worcs Canal)

Still, that moment is gone and we have moved on. A day later and I took DB through the extremely narrow Narrows and it was a joy.

Cool cruising the Narrows

This gives an idea of Narrow in a Narrowboat

I didn’t brush DB's sides on anything as we passed through and I wasn’t dawdling. I sounded the horn frequently in warning that DB was on the move. We were well out of the Narrows when a boat appeared. Yay.
Between Brewood and Wheaton Aston on the Shropshire Union Canal

Now we are on the Shroppie in Wheaton Aston. It is quiet, here, and moorings are plentiful. Della is having her groom with Stacey at WAGS4me in Wheaton Aston. Della is always happy to be at the Beauty Parlour and she always looks great after her groom with Stacey.

Only a few weeks until we leave for winter in Spain..........

Beautiful Della 11 yrs old

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A brief history

This is a blog set up by Chris and Sarah so family and friends can catch up with their travels on the British waterways in the summer of 2011. In 2010, I went to England with the idea of getting a narrow boat built. I had specific requirements so I thought that a new build may be the way to go. I e mailed to numerous boat builders, a great percentage of whom ignored me. The problem of having a family name of Laycock is that hotmail and a few others think that I am a porn star. At an early age you learn not to put C Laycock on your school books. But I guess that my nephew Paul did worse. Anyway I spent a very pleasant few weeks driving around the beautiful English countryside visiting boatyards, marinas, boat builders and just a few pubs. I had narrowed it down to two builders and in the last week I was in Devizes Wiltshire when I came across "Avalon Mist" 54 feet of throbbing neglected narrow boat. The past owner had lost interest, hadn’t maintained her and to add insult to injury had been made redundant. After a very short negotiation I was able to buy her for a pretty fair price. On the day the sale took place I had to beg her to take her trainers and a few rather suspect items of clothing, in other words she left everything. Lock stock and barrel.

Soon after the purchase I flew to California to meet Sarah and have a short holiday. Once back in NZ I started to try and organize works. The first thing that I learnt was that the marina does not allow any contractor on site, only their chosen ones, the excuse given is a concern about insurance, the suspicion is, graft, pay back, baksheesh, call it what you like. It is possible to take the boat off the marina to have the work done, but not really practical.

The first job to be tackled was to “winterize” the boat, i.e. drain off all the water, check the anti freeze in the engine and central heating and fit an automatic bilge pump.

No real problem there except communication, the mechanic just didn’t answer e mails. Difficult to do business like that.

The nice marina lady had a quiet word with him, and things did improve, thanks Debs you have been a star through out . He later confided in me the reason for this was that he was dyslexic, apparently a malady [he] claims affects a lot of mechanics.[It turns out that he is a great mechanic and a nice guy to boot].

That goes pretty high on my list of lame excuses, the top one being a really nice Irish guy Pat, who I had employed as a carpenter years ago when I lived in London. He was always a bit late for work, when I finally collared him about it; he said he could never decide what to wear to work.

Nice one Pat.

I digress, the boat was winterized, which was just as well as it was a cold one and the whole marina froze over.

Next job was to have her taken out of the water, have the hull stripped back to bare metal and have a bit of over plating done. There were a couple of areas where there was pitting, and I though if she’s out of the water, may as well do the job right, so a small amount of over plating and then the hull was blacked, and the engine bay partially de-rusted and then back in the water.

Seems like a good job was done, I had the marine surveyor who had done the original survey, check out all the major works and give me written reports and photos, so all good except once again communications.

I then came across a great guy, the partner of the woman who runs the marina and a carpenter/narrow boat fitter outer .He replaced the stern deck and did a great job, also did a great job on de-greasing, de-rusting and painting the engine compartment. A job I should have done myself, but I just didn’t fancy it, not only that be was great with communications and chasing other people up

So that takes us up to present.

There needs to be a bit of electrical work, not much. The outside is badly in need of paint, Sarah and I can do that and a bit of a tidy up inside, and then she will be a really nice boat.